You're Grounded! Sky Battles 102

By Antemortem and unfixable. Art by asgdf.
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Look to the Sky!

It's a bird! No—it's a plane! In fact, it's a whole gaggle, a murder, a flock of birds soaring high in the air. Right now these hundreds of birds are firing off attacks one after another in a heated aerial Ragnarok of sorts, a tumultuous battle of winged beasts known as a Sky Battle. Sky Battles is a metagame in which the only Pokémon permitted are Flying-types, with a few Levitating exceptions such as Eelektross. However, while the Flying-types are the stars of the show, there are other key components to the metagame that don't rely on an ability to fly to excel at their roles.

Ravagers of the Sky: Latias and Latios

The Lati twins have many notable traits that allow them to be very potent threats in the Sky Battles metagame. Firstly, let's differentiate the two by pointing out their key differences. Latias and Latios have their own niches in their moves Healing Wish and Memento, respectively. Healing Wish enables Latias to bring in a weakened teammate to have one more chance at sweeping, while Latios can drop the opponent's offenses to give the next Pokémon a leg up. These are often best saved for late game when a sweeper such as Mega Charizard X has been either crippled by status or weakened. A niche that separates Latias from Latios is its higher Special Defense, which enables it to take many hits; however, Latios has a higher Special Attack stat. Regardless, their impressive Speed stats have turned them into top tier threats. Both twins are also very useful utility-wise thanks to their access to Defog, a crucial move for removing hazards from the field, as Stealth Rock can harshly cripple teams. Their typing gives both of them a resistance to the common Electric-type moves in the metagame. Latias's and Latios's prime counters, Heatran and Bisharp, are no longer around to wall them. Probably the best counter to the twins that exists is Bronzong, but Trick can mess it up quite easily.

A Saint Amongst War: Cresselia

Cresselia is easily one of the most influential Pokémon in the Sky Battles metagame. Residing at #4 of the usage stats, it's certainly a threat that has to be watched out for. Thanks to its stellar bulk and the general lack of powerful Ghost- and Dark-types, Cresselia can truly thrive. Very few attacks can OHKO Cresselia, and some stronger attacks can not even muster a 2HKO! Not being a Flying-type means that it can switch into Stealth Rock taking neutral damage, unlike most other Pokémon. Cresselia's movepool has many options for it to choose from, including reliable recovery in Moonlight, a crippling status move in the form of either Thunder Wave or Toxic, or a boosting move in Calm Mind or Charge Beam. Cresselia has very average attacking stats, but this can be patched up through Calm Mind. RestTalk + Calm Mind Cresselia is a popular set that can sweep unprepared tams if given the chance. Cresselia is a top threat in Sky Battles and must be accounted for when teambuilding.

The Troublemakers: Rotom Formes

The Rotom formes have carved themselves a particular niche within the Sky Battles metagame with their neatly balanced offensive and defensive stats. They often find themselves donning a Choice item—they're famous for using Choice Scarf and forming half of a VoltTurn core, sometimes completed by Tornadus-T or Talonflame. Rotom-W in particular has the convenience of having access to a powerful STAB attack that, while lacking perfect accuracy, hits nearly everything in the metagame for neutral damage. You might be thinking "but Rotom-F gets Blizzard, and that hits nearly everything for neutral if not super effective damage!" This is true, and Blizzard has similar base power as well. However, what's beautiful about Hydro Pump is the fact that its unimpressive 80% accuracy is still a potentially game-changing 10% higher than the aforementioned Blizzard. One should not forget Rotom-H's Overheat; however, the saving grace in its 130 Base Power and 90% doesn't do much saving. The move has a painstaking drawback in a 2-stage Special Attack drop, rendering Rotom-H nearly useless from that point on or forced to switch out, giving the opponent a free turn. Despite Overheat hurting Rotom-H after one use, it is one of the safest checks and counters to Bronzong, a sturdy Steel-type wall. Sadly, Rotom-S and Rotom-C do not have very large niches, as both are outclassed by other Rotom formes. Rotom-S's main issue is its mediocre Flying-type STAB move, Air Slash, which is far too weak to be compared to the likes of Hydro Pump and Overheat, while Rotom-C suffers from being easily decimated by Talonflame. Do be warned that only Rotom-W can avoid being setup fodder for Mega Charizard X, a top threat in the tier.

The Great Wall: Bronzong

Bronzong is an incredible Pokémon. Not only is it a stellar wall that is trumped by few, it also finds itself as one of the best Stealth Rock setters in the entire metagame. While it's not fast by any means, it can take a hit from pretty much anything when at full health, given it hasn't switched in on, say, a Knock Off from Thundurus-T. In addition to this, Bronzong can reliably set dual screens and then proceed to use a filler move such as Gyro Ball to punch holes in anything that's incredibly fast, which actually includes a wide range of threats such as Aerodactyl and Tornadus. It also has access to Trick Room, complementing some of the slower Pokémon in the tier such as Lunatone. Bronzong's typing gives it a resistance to Stealth Rock, which is absolutely invaluable. Ground-type moves are illegal (and ultimately ineffective) in Sky Battles, making Levitate useless, but as Heatproof on Bronzong is unfortunately banned, Levitate is all Bronzong has to work with. Bronzong does not have very high offensive stats, but it can make up for this through the use of high power moves such as Gyro Ball and Explosion. It's also important to note that Bronzong actually makes a useful one-time check to the ever common Mega Charizard X, given the right defensive investment and the possible presence of screens.

Mischevious Flying Elf: Azelf

Azelf has many positive attributes that make it a great team option. Firstly, its high base Speed and great offensive stats are very nicely complimented by its colorful movepool. Azelf's high offensive stats enable it to go physical, special, or even mixed! Its bulk is a bit lacking, but dual screen sets can make up for it. Dual screen sets are one of Azelf's primary attractions, as the utility of Taunt and the ability to set Stealth Rock and both screens on top of it is phenomenal support. The main reason to use Azelf to set dual screens over, say, Cresselia, is due to its access to Taunt, which can stop Defog from removing entry hazards. These sets go perfectly with Dragon Dance Mega Charizard X, which appreciates the prevention of Stealth Rock and the added bulk to set up and sweep. Azelf can also run powerful Life Orb sets with wide coverage, including Nasty Plot and Thunderbolt. Nasty Plot sets can be a bit frail, but after setup, they are certainly hard to stop. One thing to note is Azelf's glaring weakness to Talonflame due to its inability to stomach a Brave Bird. Despite a few shortcomings, namely defensive in nature, Azelf remains a powerful and versatile threat.

I Can Be Your China Doll: Claydol

Claydol has carved itself a crucial role in the Sky Battles metagame as one of the only Rapid Spinners. Rapid Spin is a vital option when it comes to removing entry hazards, as it doesn't remove the user's entry hazards as well, unlike Defog. When one's own entry hazards are removed, a considerable amount of offensive pressure is lost, and players must go back to square one. Mega Charizard X and Y as well as Dragonite love to partner with Claydol, because in the event that entry hazards are safely removed, they can come onto the field at full health and proceed to do what's necessary to Mega Evolve/set up and sweep. Thankfully, Claydol was graced with a stellar base 120 Special Defense stat and decent base 105 Defense, and while its HP is less than impressive, it can reliably set dual screens. Coupled with Light Clay, Claydol can become a crucial backbone to teams that are chock full of more frail Pokémon such as Braviary and Thundurus. Offensively, Claydol falls short, especially since one of its two potential STAB moves is ineffective in the metagame. However it does have access to the likes of Stone Edge, Rock Slide, and Ice Beam, so it can pull a surprise attack on any Gliscor that tries to Taunt it or set up behind a Substitute.

A Gift from Apollo: Solrock

Solrock carves itself a niche by being one of the very few Rock-type Pokémon allowed in the tier. This typing allows it to check Talonflame and Mega Charizard X, two very prominent threats. Although Solrock has subpar stats, the wide variety of its movepool makes up for it. One might wonder why you'd use Solrock over Lunatone—or why anyone would even use either at all. The answer is simple: Will-O-Wisp. Will-O-Wisp cripples many physical attackers, and although it doesn't burn Talonflame and Mega Charizard X, Solrock still has enough bulk to stomach a hit and retaliate, which Lunatone fails to do. Solrock has a decent base 95 Attack stat, which is more than enough to cleanly KO both of the aforementioned Pokémon with Stone Edge. Solrock can also perform QuickPass, although it's not the best at this due to its relatively low bulk and low Speed, making this an inadvisable option. Solrock does have some very noticable flaws, but it has many positive attributes as well.

Winter in the Clouds: Cryogonal

At its core, Cryogonal is just an okay Pokémon. The primary reason why anyone would use it in Sky Battles is because of its access to Rapid Spin, an incredibly vital tool to any Sky Battles team thanks to the abundance of Flying-types in the tier. Again, this allows Cryogonal to eliminate hazards from the user's side of the field without removing any entry hazards set on the opponent's side. Since this emotionally confused snowflake also has decent Speed and Special Attack, it can take advantage of the STAB Ice-type attacks at its disposal, such as Ice Beam and the always-critting Frost Breath, to quickly decimate a few notable threats in the tier. Cryogonal also has Freeze-Dry to blast through any Water-types that may try to stand up to Cryogonal's Ice-type attacks. This includes things like Gliscor and Dragonite, the latter of which could have its Multiscale broken by the Stealth Rock layer that went untouched due to the use of Rapid Spin instead of Defog. Cryogonal also gets Knock Off, which can change the tide of the game by removing healing or boosting items, as well as both Reflect and Light Screen, enabling it to act as one of the faster dual screen setters in the metagame.

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